Cyber Security professionals: How to build a sustainable team using automation
No one can deny that cyber security professionals are in high demand. Mounting pressure to fill large numbers of vacancies in the industry is seeing under-qualified and inexperienced candidates landing well-paid jobs because no one else is available. In parallel, a rise in demand for cyber security training is seeing people from all walks of life retraining to secure positions in the sector; some with little or no experience. These scenarios will cause serious problems for our industry in the future as we seek to match wits with our cyber adversaries.
Cyber Security Sustainability – work smarter not harder
Meanwhile another revolution is underway, one that will see many professions re-engineered over the next few years. Even medicine and the law will not be immune as the development of sophisticated software systems, incorporating automation, artificial intelligence, behavioural analysis and data mining will change the way we work.
Bots will, if not replace, certainly change the role of your medical general practitioners, your financial advisors, and even your accountant. Cyber security professionals will not be immune from these changes. So, the compounding factors of skills shortages and workflow automation need to be contemplated as we strategically review how organisations can successfully deliver Information Security Management Systems into the future.
Interestingly, many cyber security professionals who get their first taste of the industry in a SOC (Security Operations Centre) leave within the first 12 months. Entry-level roles, especially junior members of the SOC team, work long shifts staring at screens filled with alerts, sifting through tedious lists of false positives, constantly on the alert for that one signal that indicates a real attack. It is an incredibly demanding job, constantly on the alert, but boring too; often doing little more than manually investigating and ploughing through the endless lists of priority security alerts looking for needles in a haystack.
Automating Key Parts of the Incident Management Process
Automated Threat Verification (ATV) is technique designed to improve the quality of machine decision making and remove some of the manual overload to make the analyst’s job easier. By verifying the nature of a threat, as real or otherwise, ATV allows analysts to focus on higher-value activities, that include strategic tuning log sources, developing original correlation rules to better identify IOCs and initiate proactive threat hunting. Humans must maintain oversight of the Observation, Orientate, Decision and Act loop (OODA Loop), but their insights and skills are most effectively used in the decision and act processes. Machines can do much of the preliminary investigation.
Just as the symptoms of a disease will soon be diagnosed by medical software; so too algorithms will be a key part of the initial collation, investigation and analysis of cyber threats. Whether in medicine or cyber security the decision and action (care) processes that result from these initial diagnoses will, certainly, remain the responsibility of professional responders and analysts whose insights and problem-solving skills can provide an appropriate level of oversight over the Incident Management Process. Equally, as diagnosis and decision-making technologies improve cyber security’s ability to automatically respond to increasing numbers of threats will undoubtedly increase.
We are already seeing the first of these technologies that can process the most tedious manual activities of SOC analysts highly effectively presenting security outcomes to that can then be authorised and acted upon. the Some even undertake many of the initial stages of incident management including response, threat management, verification and quarantining functions that are implicit in the OODA loop. But, for now, cyber security still requires skilled humans, to interpret and match the capabilities of largely human attackers.
The Evolution of Cyber Security Professionals
To remain in control of cyber risk, cyber security professionals need to enhance their capabilities in leadership, communications and “process improvement” as these areas converge towards the successful management of autonomous operational processes. Stakeholder management is vital. Security architecture will require design thinking and problem-solving skills to help businesses maintain cyber resilience. Business will continue to need problem solvers that can anticipate security weaknesses and know how to automate workflows to assist them to protect and respond against attackers seeking to compromise their businesses.